“Education is everywhere.” This has become a family motto for us since we became a homeschooling family. I had always tried to instill this in our children before I was actually in charge of their full education, but since making our decision to homeschool we have really tried to embrace it. A trip to Walt Disney World is FULL of educational opportunities whether you are a homeschooling family or not. This post starts a series of posts that will highlight some of the best ways to learn through play while on vacation at the happiest place on earth.
On our last trip our children were in kindergarten and first grade. We decided that this trip was going to be a surprise trip, but we wanted the kids to have some background knowledge of animation, Walt Disney, and the history of the parks. Doing school activities before hand was a little tricky as we didn’t want them to catch on! However, I was able to incorporate something each day to build background knowledge.
I headed to our library and checked out Who was Walt Disney? by Whitney Stewart. This book is a pretty quick read aloud that details Walt Disney’s life. My then 5 year old was shocked to find out that Walt Disney was actually a real person (somehow I think I may have failed to mention this in her life!).
We mapped where he grew up at in Missouri, mapped his route to California, and located via the internet some pictures and few videos of his early “Alice” cartoons. When we read about him drawing Mickey Mouse while on a train, we did a quick Google search and found several pages that showed us how to draw Mickey.
After we had established that Walt was a real guy, we moved on to what made him famous, his animation. We discussed how animated movies were originally made (hand drawn and using cels) versus how animated movies are mostly made now (computer generated). I had a few cels that I have collected over the years and my children were actually able to see the painting and the background separate. I also had some little small books that I had bought at Walt Disney World many, many years ago that were Mickey Mouse flip book animations. Looking through a book at the library and using those, we decided we would try our hand at it. Using Post-It note pads seemed to work really well for this activity because we were able to draw our pictures then flip through them very quickly without loosing track of our papers. My daughter is very artistic and loved this!
Finally, we looked at the history of the parks. Many of the books that I own about Walt Disney World are much to old for my children. However, there is a great DVD set called Disney Parks: The Secrets, Stories and Magic Behind the Scenes that is appropriate for all ages. The DVD entitled “Walt Disney World: Behind the Scenes” includes vintage footage of building the parks. As they had been to WDW before, my kids were able to recognize some of their favorite places, but also learn about how they were constructed. If you are new to Walt Disney World this DVD set is great tool to both teach you about WDW and to get you excited! I also recommend for adults or teens to read the book The Hidden Magic of Walt Disney World by Susan Veness. This book provides some “secrets” about the World that are fun to use while there. Your kids will be completely impressed with your knowledge!
After all this, we left our Illinois home and told the kids we were going on a short weekend trip. At one point our daughter said, “This is not a short trip, where are we going?” My husband quickly said, “Iowa.” A 16 hour car ride later, which included a stop at the Florida Welcome Center, neither one of our kids caught on to what we were doing. Since we drove, we stayed about an hour out on our last leg of the trip. The next morning we got our kids up and got them dressed in matching shirts that said, “I’m headed to Walt Disney World.” Neither one of them were very awake at that point, so they STILL had not caught on! We had individual sheets of paper that said, “We are going to Disney World today!”
When they read it together, the looked at us in shock and our son said, “You mean we are not in Iowa?” Then screaming ensued! It is one of my favorite Disney memories for our family! Come back next month to find our some homeschooling tips for the Magic Kingdom.
Sarah Garner was born, raised, and continues to live in Central Illinois, which is a very long way from the Mouse’s home in Florida. A former public school teacher, turned homeschool Mom, she enjoys reading, quilting, and cooking (but really only has time for the last one). She has been to Walt Disney World 17 times and her family recently took their first Disney Cruise. She has been married to her high school sweetheart for 11 years and they have a 7 year old son and a 6 year old daughter.